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After Many "No's", a "Yes" - Matthew 15:21-28- The Second Sunday in Lent

[Matthew 15:21-28]And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

After Many No’s, a Yes

Historically, the land of Israel was sitting in the region that used to be the land of Canaan. God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants many centuries prior. The Israelites led out of slavery from Egypt by Moses headed toward that land promised to them more than 400 hundred years after Abraham. Their children finally entered the land of Canaan, led by Joshua.

Upon entering the land of Canaan, the Israelites were to take possession of the land God promised to them by driving out all the Canaanites. Every last one. If they didn’t drive out all the Canaanites, then the Canaanite’s false-worship would lead the Israelites away from the worship of the true God and into their idolatry – the worship of idols, which, according to the New Testament Scriptures, is the worship of demons. Unclean spirits. [1 Corinthians 10:20]

The Israelites did not drive all the Canaanites out of the land in those centuries past. The Israelites did, over the centuries, worship the false gods and idols of the Canaanites. In today’s Gospel a remaining descendant of the Canaanites, however, comes to worship the true Lord. She’s in trouble. She needs Him. She calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the sake of her daughter – “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

False worship in the land invited such activities of the devil and demons into home and family, just as false spiritualism does today. Yet this woman does turn to the true Lord for help in time of need.

Help that, at first, He denies her! “He did not answer her a word.” How can that be? And she cries out to the Lord’s disciples. They ask Jesus to send her away. She’s bugging them. This woman is getting a cold shoulder from the Church and from the ministers.

A “No” by the Lord’s silence. And then a “No” by His words – “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”To the Jew first, then to the Gentiles [Romans 1:16]. Christ’s mission, the Messiah’s mission, was to be Messiah to Israel. Being Savior to the Gentiles would come after His death and resurrection. So, for now, it’s a “No” – “I’m not here yet for the Canaanites but for my lost people of Israel.”

It’s “No”, but her daughter needs a “yes”. It says next that she “knelt before Him”– the Greek word says “worshipped.” After two harsh “No’s”, this woman then “worshipped Him, saying ‘Lord, help me!’”And the Lord answered with yet another “No” – “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Our Lord is a Lord who does at times tell us “No.” Not just in His wisdom in the sense that sometimes “no” is the best and most loving answer. Instead, sometimes God lets us experience what it is for Him to turn His face away from us. Sometimes He deals with us for a time according to His Law. He lets us feel a portion of that emptiness and forsakenness due us for our sins.

There is Law and there is Gospel. God’s Law gives a hard and deserved “No” from the Lord. Sometimes God lets us live in that “No” for a while. The Gospel is God’s final undeserved “Yes” for the undeserving.

Jesus, in todays’ Gospel, is dealing with this Canaanite woman according to God’s right and just Law. She’s not even supposed to be in the land according to God’s previous judgments on her people. And the Gospel isn’t for the Gentiles yet. “No” is the answer for her.

And can she complain? She is a sinner after all. Can we complain? We do, but do we complain justly? Is it unjust, unfair for God to treat me according to His justice and judgment? No, it’s not. God’s not wrong. The judge is not wrong when He convicts the criminal (me), though the criminal complains.

Yet, the Judge is also free to hear the criminal’s cries. And in our divine Judge’s ear, a man’s or woman’s crydoes yield a “Yes” in His heart. But sometimes He wants us to stop complainingfirst. He wants us to stop justifying what we did or why we are the way we are. He wants us to stop saying, “It’s unfair! It’s unfair!” “God, Your ‘No’ to my plea is unfair.”

God, in His wisdom, does want us to become men and women of faith, just as this Canaanite woman was proven to be – in front of the Lord’s disciples – a woman of great faith.

“O woman, great is your faith!”The Canaanite woman’s great faith was that, in the midst of the Lord’s persistent “No’s”, she nevertheless knew that He still had a “Yes” for her. A ‘Yes’ that would be final. A ‘Yes’ that would dissolve away all His “no’s”.

This woman’s great faith does not deny, but acknowledges that the Lord’s “No” is fair and just. She confesses, “Yes, I am a dog” – “I really am a poor, miserable sinner”– I don’t just say it. I believe it. “I am by nature sinful and unclean” – “I do justly deserve Thy temporal and eternal punishment.” “Lord, Your ‘no’s’ are not wrong. I am wrong. You are right.”

It’s as King David prayed, “I am a worm and not a man” [Psalm 22:6]. An honest look in the mirror.

Yet we make our confession expecting an undeserved yet sureand certainabsolution, forgiveness. Love. Kindness. Goodness from God. “Yes”. After many “no’s”, the woman still knew the Lord’s answer was “Yes” – “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

God gives us many “No’s”. Yet it was Jesus who suffered the full “No” of God on the cross. For the whole world – Jews, Gentiles; Israelites, Canaanites. You. For your sin, Jesus was forsaken of God on the cross – God’s face turned away – Jesus received only and all of God’s wrath in those moments. Darkness and death. “No” and “No” and “No” again – for my sin – in my place – that I may receive the “Yes”.

Jesus received God’s final “Yes” in His resurrection on Easter morning. Just as Jesus shared fully in the “No” due your sin; now Jesus fully shares God’s “Yes” with you due to His righteousness. God’s “Yes” is yours in Jesus. The “No’s” were ended forever in His cross.

Like the dog-Canaanite-woman, the sinner-you-are has a “Yes” from God. Life’s current “no’s” now only serve a temporary and fatherly purpose. They teach you faith – to believe in God’s “Yes” even during the “no’s”. To rejoice in sufferings, because sufferings produce the “yes’s” of “endurance”,“character”, and “hope”as we read in our Epistle reading – hope which does not fail us. [Romans 5:1-5]

Brothers and sisters, you have more than crumbs from your Master’s table. You have the full loaf. After life’s many “no’s”, your flesh will receive God’s full “Yes” which is yours already in Jesus Christ your Savior. Amen.

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